By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

The Columbia Valley Economic Development Office has been hard at work during this past pandemic-filled year, and earlier this spring, that work was recognized when the office won a British Columbia Economic Development Association (BCEDA) Marketing Innovation Award for its Live Columbia Valley campaign.

Columbia Valley economic development officer Ryan Watmough received the award for Marketing Innovation in communities with a population of fewer than 20,000, in March.

Part of the Live Columbia Valley project appears regularly right here in the Pioneer, in the #LiveColumbiaValley Highlights section that appears weekly on page two. Of course, the Live Columbia Valley campaign, run by Watmough, encompasses much else, but as Watmough pointed out in his award acceptance speech, traditional media outlets such as the Pioneer are excellent places to share stories and reach readers. He noted that the Pioneer has a circulation of 4,400, and one of the highest reader uptakes of any community newspapers in B.C., that aside from local residents, many visitors tourists pick up the paper to find out what’s going on in the community.

The Live Columbia Valley campaign also makes extensive use of social media channels such as Instagram and LinkedIn in telling its stories.

“Finding and engaging your audience doesn’t take a professional marketer, photographer, video crew and a five-figure budget. You can do a great job with your smart phone, if you consider composition and basic editing,” said Watmough, adding most shots that he uses on social media are not overly complicated, as they are up-close, in daylight and of locals at events.

“Families and animals are particularly appealing. These are your community’s unofficial lifestyle brand ambassadors,” he said in his speech. “Your models don’t have to be perfect. They need to be authentic.”

Online videos likewise need not be daunting, explained Watmough, adding they are a great way to help businesses that need to tell stories, but don’t have the time, capacity or budget to do so.

“The best stories don’t have to be long,” he said, noting that human attention spans are falling, but those telling economic development stories should aim to get readers to take one action from their posts. “And prepare to nudge them many, many times.”

Watmough emphasized the value of partnering with local businesses, which makes messaging more effective and content more valuable.

The BCEDA awards have been given for the past 30 years to individual and group BCEDA members for outstanding work in supporting their local economies.

Watmough explained that he was humbled to accept this award on behalf of the Columbia Valley Community Economic Development Office and the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) and thanked the office’s member communities, First Nations, the Village of Canal Flats, rural electoral areas, and other organizations and individuals that contribute to the Community Economic Development Office.